S is for Seaweed

Often, when visiting the beach, seaweed washes ashore and stays. The large piles dry out in the sun, usually attracts flies and can sometimes stink. It can be annoying to both the beachcomber and coastal swimmer. Floating around in the warm waves of the ocean or the Gulf can be a drag if you get surrounded by a mat of seaweed. But as nasty, in a sensory way, that swimming in seaweed can be, did you know it is nutritionally wonderful for you?

There are many types of seaweed and they are edible, although some do not digest as well as others.  Seaweed is super nutritious, providing Calcium, Vitamin K and Iron to our diets all wrapped up in a low-calorie food.

There are many sources on line for edible seaweed and how to prepare it. Some you can eat raw.  Search around the internet if you are interested in learning about edible seaweed from your local beach. My favorite source is a local Asian grocery store.

Nori chips and other seaweed snacks are so tasty. You can find them now in most every grocery store. When my boys were little we would hang out at the local Single-A baseball games (my husband worked there) with some of the player’s wives and children. One would bring seaweed snacks with her that she brought from California and my kids loved them. I could not find them anywhere near by us back them but love having nori chips available now. If you haven’t tried them, please do. Check the organic foods or Asian foods section of your grocery store or stop by your local Asian grocer

SEAWEED RECIPES 

Nori Chips

Seaweed Salad 

MY SEAWEED STORY

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’d know that when I lived in FL and AL my boys were in 4-H and they worked on a marine  project. We had a large fish tank and temporarily kept a variety of critters in our tank for observation. When we left FL our Extension officer suggested we take the tank and a few critter with us and continue the project there, which we did. But we ran into a problem: We had sea urchins. Sea urchins eat seaweed. They eat a lot of seaweed.  That summer my car was not in good spirits so we couldn’t make many trips to the beach (about a 45 minute drive). I solved that problem by enlisting some friends who were going to the beach to have their kids collect bags of seaweed for me. They brought back a lot of zip-top bags filled with dried seaweed which was perfect.

Then the oil spilled into the Gulf near us and our beaches were shut down. As the beaches closed we couldn’t get there to collect seaweed for the urchins and my supply dwindled. And we couldn’t put the urchins back into the Gulf since the water almost as far as Apalachicola was off limits. It could be a death sentence for the urchins. We lived on the Mobile Bay and I was happy to find a variety of sea weed for them in the salty part of the Bay. But there wasn’t enough. A friend from Sarasota and her family came to visit us and agreed to take the urchins and a few other little critters back with them. They ceremoniously  put them into the Sarasota Bay where we originally got them.

Observing these urchins was a treat for all of us and new friends in Alabama. They would climb the side of the tank just a little bit to get above a piece of seaweed and hold on with little suction arms. Then the urchins would grab the seaweed and munch on it with it’s “teeth” located underneath it’s test. It would use its spines and suction arms to move the seaweed into its mouth. Urchins eat fast.

Here are some pictures of our aquarium. Click on each for a caption.

Note: Sea creatures belong in the sea. We were given permission by our local Extension office to house them. We were also given permission by our local Extension office to take them across state lines for educational purposes. What we took was approved by our Extension officer because they existed where we were going and could be put back into their natural habitat. Our new Extension office in AL knew what we had, too. If you keep pets and no longer want them, do not put them into the wild. Your pet may not be native to the region and may cause some eco-system damage. Take your pet to a local Extension office, wild-life specialist or pet shop to drop off or get advice about passing it on to the next owner.  A local school might also want to take it for education purposes.  But do not put it into the wild.

 

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What would Spongebob do?

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s thought of this, and to avoid infringing on copyrights I will simply tell you about our conversation instead of going through a long plot:

I was sitting with my family around the dinner table a while back discussing the oil spill in the Gulf and all kinds of things that could have or should have been done by now.  One of us asked: “What would Spongebob do?”

We all looked at each other and broke out in laughter.  What if deep water oil drilling had been allowed in the ocean near a little imaginary community of sea critters and one land mammal threatening to destroy their lifestyle? 

We imagined that a little yellow guy, who looks more like a rectangle than a square, would offer up, in a heroic yet childish way, his life to save the town.  Since he can, he’d soak up the oil, float to the top of the ocean and wring himself out into an oil tanker waiting above, then dive down to do it all over again.  Maybe he’d recruit his relatives.  And, we decided, if he started early enough after the oil started spewing into the water, that he could keep all of it from reaching the nearby coasts, thus saving the world.

Too bad it’s just fiction.

Sponges are real, though, and live in the Gulf of Mexico right along the western Florida coast.  We had been to Tarpon Springs, FL this summer.  Named the Sponge Capital of the U.S., Tarpon Springs is a wonderful little Greek town that thrives on both fishing and the sponge harvest in the nearby waters and tourism.  I bought a large vase sponge to add to my collection of marine specimens.   Appalachiacola is another sponge harvesting community along the Gulf.   They have a sponge museum called the Sponge Exchange.

Unfortunately, if the tar balls and oil reach these communities and the sponges in the water, there isn’t a single thing these critters can do.   Sponges are not mobile and cannot, therefore, run away from the toxic goo.  They’re stuck.  They may survive; they may die.  I haven’t found a source yet that says for sure what will happen to sponges in the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s hard to tell, also, whether the oil will even make it to Florida’s west coast.  From what I’ve read, the Loop Current is too far away to pull the oil to the beaches, but it is hurricane season and tar balls were just found in Texas.

Meanwhile, keep praying for the Gulf and check out this article about how the oil is affecting the cures for cancer.  Sponges are used in cancer medicine.     http://www.takepart.com/news/2010/07/02/could-gulf-oil-spill-kill-cure-for-malaria-cancer-treatments